Hygienists to continue emphasizing good oral health care routine

Jan. 24, 2007
American Dental Hygienists' Association's effort will address preventing early childhood caries.

The American Dental Hygienists' Association to Build upon ECC Prevention Efforts for National Children's Dental Health Month

CHICAGO--Building upon it's National Dental Hygiene Month efforts in October, the American Dental Hygienists' Association will continue to emphasize the importance of a good oral health care routine in the prevention of Early Childhood Caries, in recognition of National Children's Dental Health Month in February.

"National Children's Dental Health Month is an excellent opportunity for dental hygienists nationwide to continue their efforts, initiated in October during National Dental Hygiene Month, in preventing early childhood caries," says Margaret Lappan Green, CDA, RDH, MS, ADHA president.

"Dental hygienists are the front line of defense against oral disease and play a key role in the education of children, parents, and caregivers."

From the time a baby's primary teeth appear, parents should include oral care in their regular head-to-toe hygiene routine. For example, they can use a small, soft-bristled infant toothbrush dampened with water to clean the gums gently after feedings and before bedtime. Later, by age 2 or 3, parents can teach their children how to brush with a pea-sized amount of fluoridated toothpaste.

Most children should visit an oral health care provider for the first time at about age 1. This first infant/toddler category runs from birth to 4 years old. A major area of concern for this age group is ECC (cavities) which is the most common chronic disease of childhood, affecting 50 percent of children by middle childhood and 70 percent by late adolescence.

A dental hygienist can work with parents to make recommendations on how to avoid this serious ailment.

Early on parents should avoid putting their child to bed with a bottle unless it is filled with only water. ECC often occur when a child is put to bed with a bottle of sweet juices, milk, or even formula. They can also occur when a child falls asleep while breast feeding.

The sugars from these liquids remain on the child's teeth allowing the bacteria in the mouth to produce acids which attack teeth, causing decay.

When a child's permanent molars come in, usually around ages 6 and 12, parents should consider having sealants--a thin protective plastic coating placed on the chewing surfaces of back teeth--applied. Research has shown that using sealants can reduce pit and fissure in back teeth by more than 60 percent.

ADHA encourages dental hygienists across the country to get involved during NCDHM this February to increase public awareness of the specific oral health issues related to children and to help parents understand how prevention plays a key role in optimum health.

For fact sheets about this topic, and other oral health issues, visit www.adha.org/media or www.adha.org/oralhealth.